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genre: The term, French in origin, for a form, type, or class of literature. Since the writings of Plato and Aristotle distinctions have been made between three genres: the lyric, the epic or narrative, and the dramatic, all of which differ in their form of presentation and include subgenres. The genre of narrative, for example, includes works of prose fiction, as well as the essay or the nonfiction novel; the lyric (poetry in general) includes subgenres such as the pastoral, the epigram, the elegy, and the prose poem; drama (stage or theatrical productions) includes both comedy and tragedy, each of which have their own distinct subgenres (tragicomedy, comedy of manners, etc.). The point in making distinctions between literary genres is not only to classify but to consider the choices the authors are making in terms of such conventions.


Georgic: From the Greek for “farmer,” a Georgic is a kind of poem whose subject is rural life, labor and farming and which is meant to function as an instructional text concerning some skill, art or science. The georgic also tends to celebrate rural life and the natural world. Early examples include Hesiod’s Works and Days (750 BC), Virgil’s Georgics (29 BC), and texts by Lucretius and Ovid. Joseph Addison distinguished the georgic from the pastoral when he asserted that this “class of Poetry…consists in giving plain and direct instructions.” Thus, the georgic differs from the pastoral in that it is meant to instruct as well as praise and glorify.


gothic: A term originally applied to the Goths, an early Germanic tribe, which then came to mean “germanic” or “medieval.” In its current use, “gothic” is meant to indicate a kind of narrative, often prose fiction, which was popular from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century and originated with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (1764). Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) solidified the gothic novel as a form which is identified by the following conventions: a gloomy locale (castles, dungeons, wild landscapes), a focus on the distress of an innocent heroine at the hands of a cruel villain, and the prevalence of ghosts, mysterious occurrences, and other sensational and supernatural events and situations. The gothic novel was crucial in the evolution of the ghost story, the horror story, and the modern mystery, while at times lending itself to parody (Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1798, pub. 1818) or Mel Brooks’ film Young Frankenstein). Other texts which depend upon gothic conventions but which are not necessarily “gothic” as such include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1817), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). There are also echoes of the gothic in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (1853) and Great Expectations (1861). The influence of the early gothic in America is seen in the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and particularly in the Southern gothic fiction of writers including William Faulkner (Sanctuary, Absalom, Absalom!) and Flannery O’Connor.



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